Canada’s universal health-care system
All Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance. When you have it, you do not pay for most health-care services as health care is paid for through taxes. When you use public health-care services, you must show your health insurance card to the hospital or medical clinic.
Each province and territory has their own health insurance plan. Make sure you know what your plan covers.
All provinces and territories will provide free emergency medical services, even if you do not have a government health card. Restrictions may apply depending on your immigration status. If you have an emergency, go to the nearest hospital. If you go to a walk-in clinic in a province or territory where you are not a resident, you might be charged a fee.
Waiting period to get public health insurance
Residents in some provinces must wait a certain period (up to three months) before receiving government health insurance (contact your provincial or territorial ministry of health to know how long you will need to wait). Make sure you have private health insurance to cover your health-care needs during this waiting period.
Getting a health card
To get health care in Canada, you will need a health insurance card from the province or territory where you live. You must show this card each time you get medical services. Learn more about how to get a health card.
Provincial and territorial ministries of health
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Quebec (in French only)
Extra health insurance
Government health insurance plans give you access to basic medical services. You may also need private insurance to pay for things that government plans do not fully cover.
The most common types of plans are extended health plans. These cover costs for:
- prescription medications
- dental care
- ambulance services
- prescription eyeglasses
If you work, you may get extra coverage from the company or organization you work for.
Health coverage for protected persons or refugee claimants
In some cases, the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) provides temporary health insurance to refugees, protected persons, refugee claimants and their dependents until they become eligible for provincial or territorial, or private health plan coverage.
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